Imagination: Castles in Our Minds

 

Dad put his foot down the day of the hanging. Mother was always concerned about us getting fresh air, and exercising more than our imaginations. Dad, walking in from the garage, after another long day’s work at the hospital, was usually just concerned about obstacles on his path, through the family room, to the stairs leading up to the kitchen, dining, and living room in our split-level house. But the hanging caused him to pause and bark disapproval. Then he resumed his course, as we took down the traitors from the gallows.

It had been a long but foreseeable path to the gallows. Our parents had provided us with all the materials. We had no television to shape our imaginations. Instead, we were surrounded by books. There were family books in common bookshelves. Our bedrooms had bookcases for our very own books and our library books. Then, there were the American Heritage children’s histories, the junior encyclopedia sort of books, and assorted other common books which might have been in the family room (really the children’s rumpus room).

We had a durable, portable record player with our children’s records, mostly LP’s, in the family room. The dark wood stereo cabinet, in the living room, was strictly off limits for years, used for the adults’ records. So, we played records and played games in our own space, out from underfoot of the adults, but not out of Mom’s earshot.

We had a great mix of toys. There were Lincoln Logs, a wonderful, wooden train set, and then there was the big, plywood, three-sided box on wheels. There were also stuffed animals and a few dolls — on which the tale hangs.

Dad made the wheeled plywood box and all the pine blocks that filled it. If memory serves, they would have started as 2x4s. One Christmas, Dad cut, sanded, and rounded off the edges until we had a complete set of building blocks. There were pieces of various lengths, and pieces cut as arches or bridges, with the cut-outs serving as dome roof pieces. We started small, treating each construction source as its own thing, but that was not where it was going to end.

Enter the cast of characters. Mother has always been an amazing seamstress, among her many other talents. She made a calico patch snake. She made a whole set of animals, from a Winnie the Pooh pattern set. There were Kanga and Roo, Winnie, and Eeyore. Among store-bought animals were a smaller kiwi and a lion, about the same size as the kiwi. The lion lost an eye, as will happen with toys children love. So Mom gave him a patch. A lion with an eye patch shortly after 1967? Of course, he was Moshe Lion!

Now, in addition to all the shorter stories, Mother brought Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, into the house. Books were not off limits, once the adults had read them. So, a summer arrived when we were primed with great world-building stories. We had the construction materials. We had the cast of characters.

We built a great castle with battlements. We spun great tales, the tales becoming a saga. Mom would order us outside, with strict orders not to show our faces until supper time. Then it happened. Perhaps some dolls, likely cloth and plastic dolls, had fallen out of favor with their owner IRL. So, in the saga, they became traitors to the realm. We had a proper hanging, as an example to others. Then Dad walked in, from a long day in the pathology lab, to find a slightly pathological scene.

The saga ended shortly thereafter, I think, or maybe it was just the end of summer that disassembled that set of castles in our minds. Our parents gave us the basic tools: materials, engaging books and story records, and the space to imagine. They gave us freedom to imagine, within healthy constants: get fresh air in the real world, and don’t get sucked down into the macabre. Those guidelines are still helpful as adults, whatever form the castles take in our imaginations.

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  1. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Somehow my husband and I raised our four kids without TV.

    There were plenty of toys – and plenty of messes that required cleaning up. I work at home just like I always have. Back in the day my small office was in my bedroom at the back of the house and the closet provided hours of entertainment as shoes were removed and tried on and forts were made from my pillows.

    Nowadays I have an actual office in the front of the house and every morning my two little grand daughters arrive, march into my office and rearrange drawers, cover themselves in packing tape and turn off and on my printer. #goodtimes.

    But the blue ribbon of parenthood goes to my husband, who sat in the hallway and read aloud The Lord of The Rings. Three sons in one room, a daughter in another, me in the back bedroom working, and all of us listening.

    He got through all four books; by that time the youngest had been born and was old enough to pay attention, so my husband started all over again. The youngest is named Sam by the way. For Samwise.

    The Lord of the Rings had been a constant for so many years and we all loved Samwise. (Oldest son actually pushed for Stevie Ray but that was due to too many hours in the car with his dad listening to Stevie Rae Vaughan)

    He read them many books; To Kill a Mockingbird was a favorite. And now I have a granddaughter Jean Louise. Needless to say she’s known as Scout.

    • #1
  2. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    We didn’t have simulation games back in the days of my childhood. But if you were an eight year old kid who loved the sleek Corvettes on Route 66, this steering wheel of the Firebird 99 was all of the imaginary prop department a kid needed to drift into picturing the road ahead. 

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Clifford A. Brown: Of course he was Moshe Lion!

    Of course. What else could he possibly have been called? This alone has made my week.


    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under June’s theme of Now That’s Imagination! If you were ever an imaginative child, or still are one who is all grown up, perhaps you would like to share some stories from your past? We still have plenty of room for tales of imagination or imaginative tales on our schedule and sign-up sheet. Why not come share with us?

    • #3
  4. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Lovely post, describing what, in my imagination, is a perfect upbringing.

    Clifford A. Brown: Our parents gave us the basic tools: materials, engaging books and story records, and the space to imagine. They gave us freedom to imagine . . .

    and in so doing, they guaranteed you would never be bored.  How clever you were to choose such wonderful parents!

    • #4
  5. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Speaking of “story records,” I’ve told before how my sister sent my granddaughter a complete set of the Beatrix Potter “Peter Rabbit” tales on CD, read by well-known British TV and film actors.  Subsequently, my granddaughter would make up her own stories about the little animals, speaking the narration in her own voice, and the dialog between them in a spot-on English accent which she assumed without a second thought.

    Her favorite rabbit was Mopsy, who became her imaginary friend, and assumed incredible size and shape-shifting powers.  Mopsy could by eighteen feet tall; Mopsy was small enough to fit in a knothole in a tree trunk.  Mopsy could change into a superhero at a moment’s notice, and Mopsy was, of course, always on the side of good.

    But my favorite Mopsy story concerns her adaptability to extreme climate conditions.

    We were out on a walk one day when my granddaughter was about three, and she announced that we had found Mopsy’s “home,” which in this case was a small hole in the ground, and that she was down there now.

    “Doesn’t Mopsy get hot in the summer,” I asked?  “Oh no,” said my granddaughter, without batting an eyelid.   “Mopsy has ice underpants.”

    “Brrrr.”  I said.  “Doesn’t she get cold in the winter then?”

    “Oh no,” she said.  “Mopsy has fur on the outside and on the inside.”

    Nothing wrong with her imagination, that’s for sure.  Oh, to be that young again . . . .

    • #5
  6. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    When my oldest son was growing, up, we didn’t have a lot of furniture in the front room, so that was his playroom.  He did have a small slide with a place underneath where he could fit and pretend.  I had some small electric motors and rigged one of them up with a propeller, a battery and a switch.  I put it on the top of a cardboard box that was large enough for him to fit in and Voila!  instant helicopter.  He would fly for hours.

    Our early Saturday mornings lasted a little longer when we put the Sears tool catalog into his crib.  He could look at that for hours!  After that, I gave him my old Bowmar calculator and we could hear him in his room clicking quietly.

    • #6
  7. Mole-eye Inactive
    Mole-eye
    @Moleeye

    Great stories, all of you!  What fine things you did for your children!

    • #7
  8. Mole-eye Inactive
    Mole-eye
    @Moleeye

    My step-son, Eric, died of cancer at 19, but this is not meant to be a story of sadness, rather a treasured memory of a boy I was privileged to have in my life.

    When Eric was about 8, we were preparing to go on a long driving trip, and I saw a book on CD at the library that caught my eye: Elizabeth Peters’ “The Last Camel Died at Noon”.  I checked it out, and when we popped it into the player, Eric, my ex and I were transported to Peters’ wonderful world of crime-solving Victorian Egyptologists.   

    From amateur theatricals I had an old pith helmet in my office that I used occasionally on rainy days.  When we came back from our trip it decided to live in Eric’s room, where I’m sure it came in handy on many adventures.

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  9. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Mole-eye (View Comment):

    My step-son, Eric, died of cancer at 19, but this is not meant to be a story of sadness, rather a treasured memory of a boy I was privileged to have in my life.

    When Eric was about 8, we were preparing to go on a long driving trip, and I saw a book on CD at the library that caught my eye: Elizabeth Peters’ “The Last Camel Died at Noon”. I checked it out, and when we popped it into the player, Eric, my ex and I were transported to Peters’ wonderful world of crime-solving Victorian Egyptologists.

    From amateur theatricals I had an old pith helmet in my office that I used occasionally on rainy days. When we came back from our trip it decided to live in Eric’s room, where I’m sure it came in handy on many adventures.

    Loved that book. The series was a perfect blend of mystery, romance, melodrama, and high camp. 

    I’m glad you shared it. 

    • #9
  10. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Mole-eye (View Comment):

    My step-son, Eric, died of cancer at 19, but this is not meant to be a story of sadness, rather a treasured memory of a boy I was privileged to have in my life.

    When Eric was about 8, we were preparing to go on a long driving trip, and I saw a book on CD at the library that caught my eye: Elizabeth Peters’ “The Last Camel Died at Noon”. I checked it out, and when we popped it into the player, Eric, my ex and I were transported to Peters’ wonderful world of crime-solving Victorian Egyptologists.

    From amateur theatricals I had an old pith helmet in my office that I used occasionally on rainy days. When we came back from our trip it decided to live in Eric’s room, where I’m sure it came in handy on many adventures.

    Loved that book. The series was a perfect blend of mystery, romance, melodrama, and high camp. 

    I’m glad you shared it. 

    • #10
  11. Mole-eye Inactive
    Mole-eye
    @Moleeye

    @TBA, I loved the series, although the formula wore thin toward the end.   One of the things that I liked best was her representation of Victorians and their lives – dead accurate on every point as far as I could tell.  The language, the detail of clothing and manners, it was all correct.  I love historical novels, but am very picky about verisimilitude.  It’s so disappointing when authors don’t do their research properly, and just try to “wing it” on details.  After a couple of clinkers on clothing, manners, weapons, or so forth, I usually stop reading.

    • #11
  12. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Mole-eye (View Comment):

    @TBA, I loved the series, although the formula wore thin toward the end. One of the things that I liked best was her representation of Victorians and their lives – dead accurate on every point as far as I could tell. The language, the detail of clothing and manners, it was all correct. I love historical novels, but am very picky about verisimilitude. It’s so disappointing when authors don’t do their research properly, and just try to “wing it” on details. After a couple of clinkers on clothing, manners, weapons, or so forth, I usually stop reading.

    Ramses was fun, but the multiple perspective bits were too fussy after awhile – so I agree with you. 

    To your list of clinkers I would add slang and idiom which can pull the rug out from under my suspended disbelief faster than almost anything. 

    • #12
  13. Mole-eye Inactive
    Mole-eye
    @Moleeye

    If I were God I’d gather every writer, director, and producer in Hollywood, suspend them in a net over Hell, then inform them that: 1. “Okay” didn’t come into English parlance until the late 19th century at the earliest, and 2.  The “F” word did not make a general appearance in English/American vocabulary until WWII and after.  Then I’d dip the net right down to the top edge of Hell, and inform them what was waiting for them if they used either of those words anachronistically in a period piece.  Afterward I would release them back into their milieu, suitably warned.  I am sick to death of hearing those words spoken by everyone from Lascaux cave-dwellers to medieval Chinese warlords to belle demoiselles of the court of Marie Antoinette.

    • #13

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